To mark the halfway point of the men’s soccer season, The Argus sat down with Co-Captain Danny Issroff ’15 to discuss the team’s successes thus far and the expectations for the rest of the season. Currently, the Cardinals are 6-3-2 overall and rank fourth in NESCAC standings with a 4-2 conference record. Across all games, total goals scored by Wesleyan almost double the goals scored against the Cardinals, 13-7. Two of the Cards’ in-conference wins, against Hamilton and Colby, were secured in the suspenseful last minutes of a second overtime. Issroff also previewed this weekend’s highly anticipated Homecoming game against the currently undefeated Amherst squad.
The Argus: How has the team’s progress been up to this point in the season?
Danny Issroff: It’s been a little up and down. We’ve done lots of good things; we’ve done some not-so-good things. We’ve put ourselves in a position now where, if we want to achieve what we set out to achieve at the beginning of the season, it’s going to have to be pretty flawless from here on out. I think we can do that. I still believe in the team. I’ve seen enough glimpses in short patches of quality that, if everything clicks and if everything comes together, we can still have the incredible season that we planned on.
A: What are some of those “glimpses” of quality that you’ve seen?
DI: It’s no secret that, if you look at the numbers, we’ve defended really well. We always do; in my four years here, that’s never been a problem. We’ve been pretty much watertight at the back four for a lot of the season. I think we’ve seen glimpses of good attacking play. We’ve been tinkering with the formation a little bit and the personnel. Certain individuals have performed pretty well. As a group, there’s still room for lots of people to pick up the slack and to improve.
A: What do you mean by tinkering with formations and personnel? Is it a strategy of adaptation or more like trying new things?
DI: [It’s been] more [about] trying new things. We had one particularly bad result… where we lost the game. It might have been [against] Tufts…. We abandoned what we had been doing formation-wise and reverted back to something that we had done in my first couple years here. The idea [now] is a back-to-basics type of approach rather than what I would consider [to be] a more fluid, more proactive look.
A: You mentioned seeing “glimpses” of solid attack play. What has been working offensively and what needs more work?
DI: In a number of games, and I’d say particularly earlier in the season, we were doing a good job of creating lots of chances. Some of our attacking play was particularly fluid, the attacks were very good, [and] people were getting forward. From there, the issue is finishing the chances, scoring goals. We haven’t managed to put together a full performance. There have been games where our finishing was good and we scored one or two goals but maybe didn’t play that well overall. The one game that stands out was the 4-0 [win] against Salve Regina.
A: What is motivating the team more: competition or the desire to improve?
DI: It’s a combination. In any sport, you look at your weaknesses and try to work on them to bring out the best performances that you can. It’s been a similar story at other times in my career here at Wesleyan: The potential is definitely there, it’s there for everyone to see. Like I said at the beginning of the season, it’s a talented group. Part of the challenge when you have a talented group is being able to get through the frustration and really get everything to gel. That’s the ultimate goal.
A: The team has been experiencing quite a few injuries, including your hip injury. What happened, and how are you and the team dealing with such issues?
DI: [Injuries are] a contributing factor to some of the issues we’ve been having. [It’s affected] not just me, but some of [our other players]: Ben Bratt [’15] has been struggling with one or two injuries himself. I know lots of guys have knocks and problems that are preventing us from training as a group and working on things as a group. [For me,] the idea is that [cortisone] doesn’t relieve pain; it calms the area and the inflammation in the whole hip area to allow me to move more pain-free.
A: How has it been as a captain working with the team, with Bratt as co-captain, and with Head Coach Geoff Wheeler? Do you guys get to work closely?
DI: I think we do. As you get older and develop a better rapport with the coach, you work more closely. It can be tough at times to stay positive as a group. I think that’s the responsibility of the leaders of the team, of the captains, of the older guys, of the coaching staff, to put our heads together and think of what’s best for the group and what we have to do to move forward.
A: Are you expecting to play during Saturday’s game against Amherst?
DI: Yes. The hope is that I will be on the field more following my cortisone shot.
A: How is the team specifically gearing up for the Homecoming game?
DI: [Amherst is] a high-intensity, fast-paced team. They’re undefeated as of now and have historically always played really good soccer, and they will again this weekend. The key to beating a team like them is taking control away from them [by] controlling the ball and having them chase us around: keeping the ball, moving the ball, passing, keeping possession. We’re going to be working on continuing to make opportunities for ourselves as well, and taking those shots when we can. It’s the biggest game of the season. This year it happens to also be on Homecoming Weekend. The question is always, “When are we playing Amherst?” right when the season schedule comes out. So it’s massive; we’re excited.
A: Anything different you guys have been doing during practice in preparation for the game?
DI: We’re working on the basics, getting [ourselves] energized. Working on moving the ball, controlling the ball.
A: Do you have a guess or estimate for what a final score might look like?
DI: Really, we’d just be happy with a win. It’s a big game and I wouldn’t want to put any focus on anything other than our desire to win.
A: Besides the fact that it’s a really big game, why else should people come to the game against Amherst on Saturday?
DI: Because we’re a probably the best looking group of people at Wesleyan and we also have Matt Hertgen [’15].